Finally, the weather has broken here in the Netherlands with a Beautiful clear blue sky and almost scorching heat and wonder of wonders, the wind has died off to a mere zephyr!
One of the crew had his girlfriend in town and she was on a mission to see the Keukenhof gardens, which I had managed to visit a couple of Sundays ago; and had been showing the photos and waxing lyrical about.
The gardens are truly an incredible display of Nature and dedicated man hours. 40 gardeners start planting 7 million flower bulbs by hand in mid-September, taking three months to achieve the parks chosen theme for the year and to make a spectacle worthy of the millions of visitors this park encourages globally for only 8 weeks of the year.
The historical park was designed midway through the Romantic period (1857) as an ornamental garden for Kasteel Keukenhof. To gain the 8 weeks of incredible flower displays, the gardeners use a method of planting they call ‘Lasagne planting’ or layering. The lowest layer of bulbs are a late flowering variety, the middle layer are the April flowering bulbs and finally the top layer contains the early flowering bulbs.
In short, some of the flowers in the garden are; Tulips of course, Hyacinths, Fritillaria (the one that looks like a pineapple), Narcissus, Crocus, Allium, Iris and Muscari. There were so many more but these were the ones, by benefit of a park guide that gave names to the flowers that Mum, Grandma and Aunty Llynee had spoken of or planted over the years.
This Sunday though, I dropped off 2 over excited girls and 2 hard put upon guys to the Gardens and Belinda and I continued on - an Adventure…..
Just outside of Rotterdam there is a little town called Delft – very unassuming and not too different to every other town around its boarders but the difference is the building called De Porceleyne Fles.
In the 1600’s, ships from the Dutch East India Company started to bring back blue painted porcelain from China from the Ming Dynasty. With China’s civil war in the mid 1600’s less of this pottery was able to be imported to Europe and with the breweries going out of business in Delft, the empty buildings proved suitable properties for potteries. The Porceleyne Fles was Founded in 1653 and by 1695 there were 32 earthenware factories in Delft. By the 1800’s however, the usurper Wedgewood in England started to prove too good a competition and by 1840, the Porceleyne Fles was the only remaining earthenware factory left. From 1849 – 1930 the company was kept afloat by making Fireproof bricks and by mid-1800’s Joost Thooft became the new owner with a passion to revive the production of Delft Blue. The late 1800’s brought the creation of the Building ceramics department bringing in many important orders for architectural ceramics, including one for the Peace Palace in The Hague.
The World exhibition in Paris in 1900, awarded the Grand Prix to the Porceleyne Fles for the Coloured Ceramic panel gallery which is still on display in the courtyard and in 1919, the predict ‘Royal’ was awarded as a show of appreciation.
Today as we wander through the door to start our tour, we are part of the celebration for 365 years of Delft Blue.
The entry is a showcase of the moulded and fired bricks in a glaze that takes me back to when Mum used to experiment seemingly effortlessly and here, half a world away it is a coveted recipe and also zealously appreciated work of art.
Heading into one of the first rooms and there is a true copy of Rembrandt’s Night Watch but in Delft Blue/Black and towering showcases of previous shades of the blue over the past hundred years. We stopped for a bite of lunch – Dutch apple cake and a cup of tea in a Delft blue cup with this year’s design of Peacock Symphony to enjoy the garden with the Paris exhibition tilework.
From Delft, we took a wrong turn and ended up in the back streets of Rotterdam admiring the egg-shaped roller-door lock ups for push bikes, before getting back on track to the Escher Museum which we missed by two minutes. Clos-ed! So, we took a turn around the antiques market in the square instead.
Off to our next stop in the Royal city of Den Haag – The Hague, where we visited the home of the U.N.’s International Court of Justice, the only judicial organ of the United Nations not located in New York, and the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Also, Clos-ed! So, we roamed the footpath outside and took pictures through the bars… very fitting. The building is Neo-Renaissance style and was the winning design of an architecture competition in the early nineteen hundreds. Since 2004, the monument has been surrounded by the World Peace Path, which consists of a path of 196 large and small stones from 196 countries. Some of these stones are unique: they include; a piece of stone from the Berlin Wall and a stone from Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for many years.
With time ticking, we headed off to the next item on the itinerary – Gouda (Howda as they say) and the area of the cheese market. During the summer of 1438, a devastating fire reduced the then town of Gouda virtually to ashes and the town hall suffered heavy damage. The town council decided that the new town hall should be freestanding so they chose a new location on the market field, which was little more than a sodden peat bog at the time. These days they hold the Cheese market in front of the Town Hall but again, as is my lot it was clos-ed. As we ran around town looking at the incredibly beautiful streets and canals, we went past a sign for Sint Janskerk, somewhere that mum had mentioned but I couldn’t remember the specifics so I have looked them up!
Sint-Janskerk is named after John the Baptist the patron saint of Gouda. The first mention of Sint-Janskerk was found in documents from the year 1280, but the current church was built after the great fire of 1552. With its 123 metres, it is the longest church in the Netherlands. The church is also world renowned for its Gouda glass. These stained-glass windows, particularly those from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, display scenes from the Bible and from Dutch history.
Now I am really annoyed that it was Clos-ed, as most people I travel with know I have a penchant for taking far too many photos of stained glass windows!!!
Seeing as daylight was fleeting and we had promised to pick up some of the Crew in Amsterdam Centraal and still had to negotiate all the road works that seem to sprout with the spring flowers in all of these European towns…. We hit the road again. As we left town, I booted Belinda out into the green loamy fields to get a photo with the Cow we had seen on our way into town.
Leaping about in a field of Nettles didn’t become apparent as a bad idea until after she got back into the Van and she fidgeted all the way home…!!
With much messaging and then frantic calls to South Africa, we found the two crew in a sea of people, cars, hop-on-hop-off busses, trams and general disarray of a possible drug bust in action. As they jumped in the van, Belinda tried out her evil laugh and said ‘I hope you don’t want to go home, you are being held hostage on a mystery tour’….
Next stop – Edam! We did all the back roads to the entrance to town and the sign that we had made it. I pulled off into the bus interchange and Belinda and I left the others in the car and took off across the carpark for the chance to say once again – Cheese!
Seemingly disappointed that I was going to head off without at least one run through town, I went with the consensus and drove the narrow avenues of this beautiful ‘country’ town. I had really enjoyed the narrow cobblestone alleyways of Gouda and the pristine shop windows and houses but Edam upped the ante – with lovely quaint buildings, the empty cheese market square with its beautiful sculpture of the cheese men. Definitely a little town to come back to as it had all the hallmarks of the beauty of Amsterdam without the ‘coffee shops’ and the thousands of tourists.
Belinda and I did quite a few selfie bombing in front of the clos-ed cheese shops but finally, we dragged ourselves back into the van for the last hours travel of the day, across the dyke through the Isslemeer to Lelystad and Urk. At this time of year, you not only get the incredible colours across the land, there is this odd phenomenon of bugs that are almost in plague-like numbers that appear across the sky. They tend to hide in the shadow and also dawn and dusk are their favoured times to head out. As we drove over the Isslemeer I thought it was starting to rain but the patter on the windscreen was these swarms of bugs hurling themselves at the windscreen – when we finally arrived in Urk, the whole front of the car look like it had a sheet of Fly mesh over it and you could only just see through the smallest gaps.
On the way to the airport this weekend, we saw mini tornados of these bugs whirling over the fields – nature is truly remarkable.